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YouTube reviewer Frunkinator shows off a new purchase
The group coalesced around online reviews by guys like MyMickers and Robes08, who have each made over 375 YouTube videos to date about their addictions to fragrance. Obsessive scent lovers are known as perfumistas, but Devine says he and his closest buddies prefer the term "Goodsmellas." Some work for the government, some are members of the NYPD, and the "-ista" suffix doesn't really speak to them.
For his part, Devine became interested in fragrance after working as a first responder on 9/11. "We dealt with terrible smells down there, and something in the air caused me to lose my sense of smell for about two years," he explains. "When it came back, I became so appreciative that I just wanted to smell good things."
Not all of the perfumistas have such a dramatic origin story, but they all have similar tales of discovering the YouTube reviews and getting hooked. Eddie, a New Yorker who goes by the name Frunkinator online, says he found the community after burning through his third or fourth bottle of the decidedly non-niche Acqua di Gio. Looking for a new signature scent, he started watching the videos. "One things lead to another, and I'm completely engulfed in watching videos, trying to get samples, watching more and more reviews and then going, 'I think I can do this.'" Since he started in January 2011, he's posted 122 videos.
On private Facebook group Peace Love Perfume, the Goodsmellas and their cohorts chat about their SOTD—scent of the day. They also share decants: One guy will buy a bottle of fragrance and then split it into smaller amounts, selling them to make back some of the expense. Carlos J. Powell, who runs the Facebook group, estimates that he has around 420 decants. "Sometimes I wake up and I don't know what the hell to put on because I have such a large collection," he says.
Peace Love Perfume has 166 members, among them perfumers and merchants (like the owners of MiN) as well as superfans. Powell thinks he'll cap the group around 170 so that it doesn't become a "circus hoopla," but much bigger public groups exist online as well. For Powell and his group members, the privacy factor is key. Says Powell: "A lot of people on their regular Facebook walls, their friends don't have the same crazy perfume passion that we all share."
One member of the NYPD told us his colleagues don't know he's "Cologne Guy," and he doesn't think it's appropriate to wear scent in uniform. Another said he's discovered practical reasons not to wear heavy fragrance at work: "If you're in uniform, wearing a bulletproof vest and the gear, you can get really hot. I've learned the hard way that you really need to wear something light. Otherwise I'll choke myself out, standing on a parade route baking in the sun in something heavy."
The Goodsmellas. From left: Mike Devine, Rich Scardaville, and Edward Gochman. Photo courtesy Edward Gochman.
Offline, there are plenty of fragrance meet-ups. Goodsmellas member Richard Scardaville says he got hooked after discovering Sniffapalooza, a group that hosts co-ed weekend tours of niche fragrance shops as well as beauty counters at Bendels and Bergdorf. Frunkinator gets together with about eight local reviewers every month or so for shopping trips to places like Creed and Bond No.9. And they all spend time at MiN. Goodsmella Edward Gochman, who's known as "The Mayor of Scents," says curator Mindy Yang helped make the niche underground accessible to him: "When I first came there, I was in the beginning phase of my addiction, and Mindy spent 20 minutes explaining everything to me."
There's a wide range of reasons a guy might become obsessed with niche fragrance: The friendly community, the artistry behind scent construction, the desire to smell unique. Devine talks about the way a fragrance can carry a memory. He wore the same cologne for a week on a tropical vacation a few years ago, and now whenever he smells that scent, he's taken back to the Bahamas. And then, of course, there's the lure of the hunt. Says Powell ruefully, "The search to find the new It scent, it never ends."
· Frunkinator [YouTube]
· MiN New York [Official Site]